Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Free Haircuts!

Back when I was working a normal civilian job, and had no one but me to worry about I would pay a fair amount of money to have someone cut my hair.  Then I joined the army, got married, and wore my hair in a bun every day.  I got in the habit of mostly just not doing anything about it until the situation got really, really bad.  Then, I went to one of those cheap-o chain haircut places to trim it up.  I've been incredibly dissatisfied with haircuts I've received at these sorts of establishments in the past, but the reality is that, at the time, convenience and speed were worth more to me than having a great haircut.  

I no longer have the excuse of wearing my hair in a bun ever day, but I have come to hate dealing with the hassle of getting it cut.  While we were in Boise I tried to get Justin to try cutting it for me.  He blatantly refused to touch it.  Eventually my sister-in-law, Brooke cut it for me a couple of times, and even my mom got roped into doing it once or twice.  It's turned out well each time.

A couple of weeks ago Sarah cut her own hair and I was fascinated by how well it seemed to have gone.  So I decided to give that a whirl.  I figured that I had very little to lose.  It's long enough that if things went really south I could go somewhere and pay to have it fixed.  The idea of cutting it myself in the comfort of my own home, on my time frame, just whenever I get to it, without paying someone else is very appealing.

So today in a move that probably takes my tight-waddiness to a whole new level, I decided to try this out.  I put Vivian in her high chair with a piece of celery to chew on to keep her entertained, and I wheeled her up to the doorway of the bathroom.  I started by mentally reviewing all the little techniques I had observed professional hair people using on my hair over the years.  It just didn't seem like it was going to be that hard.  My first few little snips were pretty timid, and then I got a bit more adventurous and started lopping off bigger pieces.  

It still seemed to be going really well, until Vivian got bored with her celery, hurled it on the floor and started crying.  I tried to continue, but I felt that my focus was compromised.  I stopped, settled her down and then resumed.  This cycle was repeated several times, and I started realizing that I got a little more wild with the scissors every time I returned.  Towards the end I have to admit that I was just kind of randomly snipping at the ends of my hair, with my scissors going all different directions.  I figured that was a sign that it was time to stop cutting.
The blessing here is that my hair is curly, so I don't think anyone can truthfully really tell what's going on with it anyway. 

 Frankly, I think it looks pretty good.  I even attempted a little layering around my face.  I may try this again in the future, but next time I will wait until Vivian is either sleeping, or there is someone else around to keep her entertained.  Now if any of you started reading this because you were hoping to get a free haircut, I'm willing to cut yours too!  I have no training.  I am, however, always willing to practice on someone else.  I have been cutting Justin's hair for years now, so I am not entirely without experience.  My services are free!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

We Turned Three

Yesterday was our third anniversary, and we had decided that this year we would really like to go out for our anniversary.  Previously we've told ourselves that we don't celebrate Valentine's Day because Justin's birthday is just around the corner, and our anniversary is the day after that.  However, we've learned through experience that we usually just end up not celebrating anything.  So this year I wanted it to be a little different.  We still skipped Valentine's Day, and he still insisted that he didn't want a birthday gift, but I attempted a birthday cake.  I would say it's too bad that I didn't take a picture of his decorated birthday brownies...but really it's all for the best.  It was breathtaking, but not in a good way.

We planned to go out on a date for our anniversary.  Just us.  No Vivian.  Since this date was taking place in the middle of the week we were only planning on doing dinner.  Justin didn't want to be out too late, and we assumed that our babysitters wouldn't appreciate that either.  We had a gift certificate to the Outback steakhouse that had been gifted to us a long time ago that we'd been holding in reserves for just such an occasion.

Sarah was our original babysitter, but she called to report that her household is battling strep throat right now, and we have no desire to be involved with that situation.  (Sorry, Sarah.  I hope you and yours get past this quickly.)  Michelle stepped up as our backup.  We dropped Vivian off, and when we walked out the door she was just passively sitting on the floor grinning up at her little cousins.

So this experience at Outback...it was weird.  We were greeted as we walked in the door by a very timid looking young man with a nasally voice.  He asked us if we were okay with a half booth, half table arrangement.  We said that would be fine and he walked us to the back of the restaurant.  There was a padded booth seat that ran the length of the back wall, and had tables arranged in front of it.  He walked us to the corner table and asked us if that would be okay.  It would have been fine, had it not been for the people in the table next to ours.  Their toddler son was sprawled out on the floor between the two tables coloring and eating.  Justin and I said nothing, we stood their side-by-side staring at this scene, waiting for the parents to realize that first, the floor of a restaurant is a disgusting place to put your child, and second, that there was no access to our table.  We said nothing, they said nothing, and finally after several awkward seconds our nasally host suggested that perhaps we would like a full booth, and Justin agreed.  The host then turned and led us across the room to an open booth, and asked us to stand there awkwardly in the restaurant while he went to check on what booths were open.  He returned and seated us at the booth in front of us and told us that Marissa would be taking care of us.

While we waited for Marissa to make her appearance we watched as the nasally host then attempted to escort another couple, who had just arrived, to the same half booth, half table arrangement that we had just declined.  We watched amused as the other couple had pretty much the exact same experience, and similarly wound up being seated elsewhere in the restaurant.  I would love to know how many people the host attempted to seat at that table.  Our attention was drawn from that situation when a man seemed to sort of slide up to our table.  He made no introduction, but tossed his shoulder length hair out of his face, and asked us if he could get us started with a beverage.  According to his name tag he's Leonardo.  He looked Hispanic, and I believe that if you envisioned someone that was hoping to be spotted and recruited to model for the cover artwork of a Harlequin romance novel about a Latin lover, you would envision someone like Leonardo.  He had his Outback steakhouse shirt partway unbuttoned, and he tossed around his hair quite a bit, all the while acting sort of uninterested in us and our order.

As soon as he left Justin commented that "that definitely was not Marissa."  No sooner had these words left his lips than Marissa did appear.  She was rather abrupt, and for some unknown reason had gauged ears that were so stretched out that I hated looking at her at all.  She introduced herself, and asked us if we'd like to get started with a beverage.  Justin informed her that someone else had already left to get us some waters.  She asked us if we were okay with waters, and when we said "yes" (since that is what we ordered) she disappeared.

A few seconds later Leonardo reappeared and asked us if we were ready to order.  We told him that Marissa had been by and said she'd be taking our orders.  Leonardo disappeared for a few minutes, and returned to announce that Marissa would in fact be our server.  Marissa reappeared a few minutes later to take our order.  We weren't ready, but ordered an appetizer.  She returned twice more to take our order and to announce that our appetizer would be out any second.  Our side salads showed up first, then our appetizer and food, all in rapid succession.  It was annoying, and we found it to be a little odd that Marissa acted as if nothing were amiss, and never made any sort of apology or mention of the issue.  However, the food was actually really good and we try not to be too uptight about that sort of thing.  Although I did notice that Justin was a bit tight-waddish with the tip.

All in all we had fun being at dinner together, and were amused by the service.  When we returned to retrieve Vivian from John and Michelle's, John immediately asked us how the service had been at the restaurant.   I told him it was terrible, and he said that he and Michelle had been there a couple of weeks earlier and had been astonished at the seeming incompetence of the staff there.  It was all very bizarre for them as well.  We asked how Vivian had fared in our absence.  Apparently she was a huge hit with her cousins.  Michelle produced this video clip as evidence:


After watching that I'm thinking that she and Coen might have enjoyed this little date night experience even more than we did.  I don't know that Creed can say the same.

Friday, February 13, 2015

On the Mend

Vivian fell ill recently.  It was not fun.  We spent several days doing nothing while she tried to recover.  Neither of us enjoyed it.  However, she finally seems to be better, and I'm so grateful to have my healthy, happy baby again.  Thankfully, she's recovered just as we've hit an unusual streak of warm weather.  I decided that we could both use a day outside after being cooped up indoors so much for the last little bit.  While Justin was at work on Thursday we decided to go check out Tracy Aviary in Salt Lake.  Brianna and her roommate came down from Logan and met us there.

So the aviary...there are a lot of birds.  Lots of birds.  I liked it, and it was great to be back outside, but it wasn't the most interesting place I've ever visited.  Vivian similarly seemed far more interested in being all cute and smiley for Brianna than looking at the birds.  Although, she showed a passing interest in the ducks and the peacocks that wander around the aviary.  She also looked at me inquisitively at the Macaw exhibit, every time one of the parrots squawked.  Pretty sure she thought that noise was me.  What does that say about the way I choose to communicate with my child?

The peacock was hands down still the prettiest bird there.
Today was Justin's day off, and again the weather was far warmer than it should be for mid-February, so we decided to spend the afternoon at Hogle Zoo.  I was wondering whether or not Vivian would have any more interest in the zoo animals than she had taken in the birds.  Initially it seemed like she was just going to spend the day staring at other small children and smiling for her dad...and then she spotted the elephants that we had been trying to draw her attention to for several minutes.  Her little face assumed a look of complete astonishment.  We witnessed a similar reaction at several other exhibits, and then she seemed to get the hang of looking for the animal whenever we shoved her up to a glass window and ordered her to "look Vivian!"  She also greeted the animals with her little growls.  Again, what does this say about how we communicate around here? 

What follows here is just a shameless series of photos of my kid staring a various animals.  Because, I think it's cute, and this is my blog.
Vivian and some sort of lynx

Vivian captivated by a tropical bird fluttering around overhead.

Vivian watching a huge turtle eating.

Vivian and a wallaby

Vivian and a bat-eared fox 
Vivian and a skunk

Vivian and her dad

Vivian and a porcupine

Vivian and some kind of little rodent

Vivian and a cat of some sort

Vivian and some monkeys
 It seems like she really loved the zoo, and I'm glad we took the time to take her there.  We stopped at the "This is the Place" Monument across the street.  I had never been before, and it was quite interesting.
After that we headed home, and we're hoping to enjoy the warm weather again tomorrow before the temperatures start dropping back into a more normal range for this time of year.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Staying Put

Justin was scheduled to go to DLI in March, and study Russian.  His orders were published, and our departure date was looming.  I had a lot of mixed feelings about returning to Monterey.  I thought it would be a better experience this time. For me anyway.  This time Justin could go brave the Russian classes.  Vivian and I would explore the outlet stores in Gilroy, visit with Shaine and Vanessa, hike along the coastline, and basically learn to love Monterey.  I even bought myself a little happy light to try and keep the gloomy weather from dragging me down.  Then Justin got an email from our company.  DLI isn't happening.  The orders are being rescinded, the funding isn't available.  All of the sudden I really wanted to go back to Monterey.  Well, maybe that's overstating things a bit.  I really wanted Justin to get the chance to learn Russian too, and I felt like he had earned it.  However, it seems that a return to Monterey is not in the cards for us, at least not at this time.

I am still hanging onto that happy light.  We're planning on going to Logan in the fall so that Justin can get busy acquiring his degree.  No part of me looks forward to living in Logan in the winter.  This isn't what we planned, but there seems to be a real upside to all of this.  We decided to plan a vacation to Hawaii in March.  There's nothing quite like booking a stay in the army's beachfront cabins to remind yourself that the army isn't all bad, even though they have screwed over your life and sent you spinning in a different direction, yet again.  This time that direction appears to not be such a bad one.  We have nothing against spending another summer in Utah, and we really don't have anything against Justin getting his degree done earlier than we had anticipated.  Not getting the second language is disappointing, but not the end of the world.  We're still keeping our fingers crossed that some more funding comes through and his orders get reinstated, but at the same time not holding our breath.  We love our ward, we're close to family, Vivian's cousins are thrilled with the idea of having access to our apartment's pool again, Justin can't wait to take us back to Southern Utah for more camping and hiking, and I am happy to get another sunny summer.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Running Away from Winter

Several months ago we were notified that Justin is not allowed to accumulate more than a few days leave at a time, and he has exceeded the limit.  We decided to take a vacation to Florida to go camping in the Everglades and drive out to Key West.  We were so excited about this, but something about the trip didn't seem quite right.  I guess we just weren't ready to let go of the idea though, so we switched gears a little and decided to road trip to Florida.  We started madly researching everything we could about Florida in the winter.  We had all kinds of visions of ourselves hanging out on a beach in Key West, snorkeling with manatees, snapping photos of alligators, and cruising across the USA exploring anything and everything that caught our fancy along the way.  Justin was in charge of selecting the route.  After considerable deliberation we decided to roll the dice a little and we booked our first hotel, a non-refundable room, booked through Priceline, at a 3-star hotel in Williams, AZ for a mere $40.  Day one of our adventure was planned.  We went to bed that night and I laid there wide awake for a long time trying to ignore that pit in the bottom of my stomach that was telling me that I needed to pull the plug on this little family vacation to Florida.  I hated doing it, and was sorely disappointed to scratch all the plans, but scratch them we did, and I don't even know why, and probably never will.

The holiday season for us was rather hectic, and served as something of a distraction to our ill-fated vacation plans.  We made multiple trips up and back to Boise, Salt Lake, Logan and Orem for various festivities and family functions.  The finale to our holidays was spending a few days in Phoenix with Uncle David while Justin and his brother Steven attended the Fiesta Bowl to watch Boise State play.

When the holidays were finally over, and things started to return to "normal" we were reminded of a hotel room we had bought near the Grand Canyon on January 15th.  We talked it over, and finally decided that there was no sense in not using what we had already paid for, so we decided to plan a vacation to Arizona over the long weekend.  We reserved a rental car, and then busied ourselves reading up on all the things there are to see and do in Arizona in the winter.  We had decided that we wanted to see a few overlooks of the Grand Canyon and then continue on to the Petrified Forest National Park a couple of hours away.  That's really all that we had agreed on doing.

Wednesday night I got out a few sets of underwear and some socks to pack, and then got interrupted.  Justin came in the bedroom, saw my things sitting on the edge of the bed, assumed I hadn't put my laundry away, and thoughtfully put them back in the drawers for me.  That was the closest either one of us came to doing any prior packing for our Arizona excursion.  The next morning we were still undecided on whether or not we were going to camp in Southern Arizona.  That was Justin's idea, so he had upgraded the rental car to a small SUV in order to accommodate our camping equipment.  In the midst of some packing that should have probably been more frenzied than it was, we paused to make a second hotel reservation out near the Petrified Forest National Park, so at least we had 2 nights of lodging determined for our 5 day trip.  Justin placed the last of the camping equipment in the car, and I came out to the parking lot with Vivian just as the car "locked itself" with the keys inside.  After spending several days with this car I feel confident in asserting that this car does not automatically just lock itself, but this is what was communicated to me as I stood there with Vivian and observed my husband fly into something of a rage over the incident.  I handed him my phone, told him we'd be back upstairs in the apartment and to let us know when AAA had arrived to unlock the door.  For the record, they are super fast about getting someone out there to assist, and all is well that ends well.

We left around 2pm.  The drive was relatively uneventful, other than the fact that driving through the Kaibab National Forest in the middle of a winter night was an eerie experience because of how isolated you feel.  We drove through the dark mountains for miles never passing another car, and were relieved when that part of the trip was behind us.  We finally arrived in Williams, AZ a few minutes before 11, and discovered the town to be much bigger than we had anticipated.  We had not bothered to look up directions to our hotel, assuming that it would be easy to spot in a small town.  We drove around for 20 minutes or so before I spotted a McDonald's a few blocks away and suggested to Justin that we make our way there, and use their free wi-fi to look up the address online.  Fortuitously our hotel happened to be across the street from the McDonald's, so we were spared the hassle of trying to look it up.  Unfortunately, we decided to check-in first, and then report back to the McDonald's for dinner, since it appeared to be the only establishment in town that was still open at that hour.  We were wrong, it closed at 11.  We had to settle for some sandwiches that Justin had hastily prepared before we left.  He had hoped to save them for when we were camping.  He had made four, we ate two of them.

The next morning we woke up late and made our way out to the visitor's center where we watched an IMAX film that has convinced me that I would someday like to go on a guided rafting excursion through the Grand Canyon.  Next we went to the Canyon, and to be honest, it was underwhelming.  I expected something more spectacular.  I'm not sure in what way I wanted it to be even more spectacular, because it is beautiful, and enormous, but I suppose I just simply felt that it had been over hyped.   All the same, after having a heated little debate in the parking lot about where to go for lunch, we elected to eat our last set of camping sandwiches and then visited a few overlooks.

My people on the rim of the Grand Canyon
We were rushing because we wanted to go see some Indian ruins called Montezuma's Castle, a couple of hours away.   We drove all the way there, they closed 20 minutes before we arrived.  We drove all the way back, and then an additional couple more hours out to Holbrook, AZ, had dinner, and checked into our hotel.

For the second day in a row, Vivian napped in the car all day, and was ready to go at an absurd hour the next morning.  The upside is that it got us out the door earlier the second morning, and we took our time doing a few short hikes, that were more like walks, in the Petrified Forest National Park.

Vivian clutching a little chunk of petrified wood.  We did put it back.
For some reason I had believed in all earnestness that it would be difficult to actually find the petrified wood that is allegedly everywhere in that park.  It turns out that not only is the terrain of the park quite picturesque, but the entire park is littered with the petrified wood.  It's everywhere you look.  I've never been anywhere quite like it.  The rocks/wood are beautiful, and surreal looking, and I was completely taken off guard by the abundance and appeal of these artifacts.
So those rocks all over in the background...they're not rocks.  I mean, they are rocks, but they're petrified pieces of wood, which are technically rocks now.

She loves any day that she gets to spend the whole day with Dad.

After that we returned to Holbrook for lunch and on the drive there discussed our next move.  I was exhausted from two days of early morning wake ups with Vivian, and was somewhat inclined to call it and go home at that point.  However, Justin was really set on camping, and had read some rave reviews about the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.  The only thing we agreed on at that point is that the name Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is way too long.  I knew that once we were there I would be happy that I let myself be dragged along for the experience, so I relented and we determined to head south for the warmer weather.
This is a place we stopped along the way called Becker Butte Lookout.  We thought it was better scenery than anything we saw in the Grand Canyon.
We knew the drive to Organ Pipe Cactus was going to be a long one so we left immediately after lunch, and the only stop we made along the way was at that lookout place in the picture above and a few short breaks for Vivian to eat.  We drove for hours, and finally Vivian became inconsolable in her car seat.  For whatever reason she hadn't napped at all that day, and was very unhappy about the situation.  We weren't anywhere near a campground and were nearing Phoenix, but still two hours out from our final destination.  It was late and as soon as Justin saw a sign on the freeway for a KOA he pulled off and headed there.  Sleep deprivation had really set in for me as well at that point, and I was probably even less pleasant company than Vivian.  I think our fellow campers probably felt kind of bad for Justin.  The next morning, I was nicer, and life seemed better.  Before we left we secured ourselves a KOA directory, since this is the second time we've been saved by one when things weren't working out as planned.

We continued our driving south.  Really far south.  The Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument borders Mexico.  As we pulled into the town just outside of the monument, Ajo, AZ we started to question the wisdom of this trip.  First of all, the area was not really that pretty, but even more worrisome were the barred windows on every establishment in town and the bullet holes in the buildings of the town square, where we stopped for lunch.  The weather however was perfect.  It was a sunny 80 degree day outside.  
Vivian was mesmerized with the flag in the town square.
We chatted with some people at the cafe where we had lunch who had been out to the monument the previous day.  They loved it, and said they had never felt unsafe while there.  We felt reassured, but decided to report straight to the visitor's center to speak to a ranger and get an honest opinion about the wisdom of camping there with a baby.  The first ranger was a woman who was very nice and encouraging, the second ranger was a kind of passively rude Hispanic man.  He acted like we were idiots for asking the question, despite the fact that there is a memorial outside the visitor's center for a park ranger who was killed in the monument by the cartel several years ago.  We essentially tried our best to just ignore the man, the woman reassured us that there had never been an incident with a tourist in the park.  So we secured ourselves a campsite.

It was Sunday, so we had decided not to do anything too ambitious on the Sabbath.  We took a 21-mile scenic drive through the monument.  The conditions of the road left a lot to be desired, but it was a one-way road, and we had to go so slow that Justin pulled Vivian out of her carseat and let her sit on his lap in the front.  She loved it.  The park was astonishingly beautiful, more than we had anticipated, or initially realized.  Our photos will never do this place justice.
One of the best stretches of road

My people with an Organ Pipe Cactus.

Vivian and I with a Saguaro Cactus.
After that we went on a stroll called the Desert View.

Looking back at the campground

We returned to our campsite in time for one of the best sunsets I've ever seen.  We promised ourselves that some day we will be back to spend more than a day there.  We were very sorry to leave and start the long drive home Monday morning.  We broke up the long day in the car with a visit back to Montezuma's Castle.  This time they were open. 

It was not the most exciting thing I've ever seen, but gave us a nice break from the driving.  We stopped again at the Navajo Bridge that's somewhere out near the Utah border. 
Our baby is astonishingly patient with all of our driving.

We pulled over again to take a few pictures of the sunset against the Vermillion Cliffs.  Again, our pictures are sadly inadequate. 
We made it home around midnight, and as soon as I set foot out of the car I immediately wished that I could somehow transport myself back to the warmth of Southern Arizona.  I love the desert, and I love it even more when it's offering me a break from Utah's cold winter weather.